Plot elements don't come together in remake of 1976 Australian film

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A boy befriends a trio of pelicans in "Storm Boy," a remake of a 1976 Australian film that strains to teach life lessons and is framed by a clumsy plot device that won't let it get off the ground.  

Finn Little is young Michael Kingley, who is raised by his father Tom (Jai Courtney) on the remote coast of southern Australia.  

One day Michael meets Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson), an Aboriginal man living in isolation, and they come across three baby pelicans. 

Worried they won't be able to fend for themselves, Michael brings them home and raises them on his own, feeding them fish his father catches from the sea. The pelicans are not only dependent on Michael, Michael is dependent on them, and they become his only friends. When his father grows worried about his son, he makes him release the birds into the wild. One of the pelicans, whom Michael has named "Mr. Percival," returns home, their bond realized. 

So "Storm Boy" is a sweet tale about a friendship that crosses species. But it unfolds in a wonky fashion, with the story told in flashback by a grown-up Michael (Geoffrey Rush) to his granddaughter, who is a little too old for story time with grandpa. The back-and-forth time-shifting is unnatural to the story's flow, and the present day tale is linked to a thin plot line about a corporate takeover that feels as if it's unfolding in another movie altogether. 

Meanwhile, a clunky conflict is introduced into the flashback story in the form of a villainous townsman who's somehow threatened by the boy's friendship with his bird. "Storm Boy" wants to be a high-flying inspirational tale, but its wings are clipped by bad storytelling. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama 

'Storm Boy'

GRADE: C

Rated PG: for some thematic elements, mild peril and brief language

Running time: 109 minutes

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